Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Spirits >
Apr 29, 2007 02:55 PM

Shaken or stirred?

Ketel One-straight up-with a twist and an onion, please.

Not too much to ask for I think. I have ordered this many times at many different places and have yeilded many different results. Sometimes the bartender stirs it with a bar spoon, sometimes shakes it. What kills me is when a bartender will shake the hell out of my drink for a good minute or two, then when it is strained it is now cloudy and I can practically eat it because it has the consistency of a snow cone.

After all that-I prefer my martini stirred please.

Has anyone one else encountered the above?

And how do you prefer your gin/vodka/martini/manhattan?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. If you prefer your Martinis stirred, then don't take your chances, order them stirred.

    A really good bartender will stir clear drinks (such as Martinis and Manhattans) and shake drinks with juices or other things in them (such as Margaritas and Ramos Fizzes). When drinks get shaken, the bartender is *supposed* to shake the hell out of it. This both chills the drink to the proper temperature, and dilutes the drink with enough melted ice to make the drink palatable. Proper stirring takes about three times as long as a good hard shake to get the drink to the right temperature, so many bartenders just shake everything. The last thing you want the bartender to do is shake it a little bit. The drink comes out overly strong, and not nearly cold enough; there are few things in life less pleasant than warm gin.

    The cloudiness that you mention is nothing more than tiny air bubbles introduced to the drink through shaking. Uppity gin drinkers call this "bruising" the gin and get their knickers in a bunch over it. The only effect aside from the obvious cosmetic difference is it lightens the mouthfeel of the drink. If you don't like the cloudiness, wait a few moments and you can watch the bubbles settle out of the drink.

    1. Ketel One straight-up with a twist and an onion . . . no vermouth? Is that a Martini???

      James Bond was the one who popularized a) vodka martinis, and b) shaking them . . . well, at least in the post-Prohibition era.

      re: shaking/stirring, cloudiness/clarity, JK is completely correct . . .

      5 Replies
      1. re: zin1953

        Yes, I agree that vodka straight up is not a martini, just what it is: vodka chilled on a stem. The part about James Bond-that is interesting to know. It explains why "shaking" became the "martini" phenomenon.

        Unfortunetly, there aren't many restaurants here that actually keep a bar spoon behind the bar. I do know of a handful, but not much, and they don't really ever use them. I think it has become a forgotten, yet very important, bar accessory.

        And when the mood is right I do love a Plymouth martini with a generous splash of Vya Vermouth.

        1. re: cocktailqueen77

          If the bartender can't/won't stir your drink, and you want it stirred, why not do it yourself? Order a Ketel One on the rocks, with a twist (and here I'm curious--when they don't have the spoon, do they still have the cocktail onions?), and an empty glass (cocktail if they have them, I suppose, but again . . .); if you really want to make a production out of it, ask for a glass full of ice. Stir the drink yourself, ask the barkeep to dump the ice if you requested it, strain (use your finger), and enjoy. You may hear some grumbling from the beer-drinkers; but, then again, someone might buy you another round just to watch you do it again.

          1. re: olfashiond

            the bt should be able to "stir" the drink in the shaker w/o a bar spoon by using a gentle, rolling wrist motion rather than "shaking like hell" as with a juice drink. it's really pretty basic and only takes seconds longer, but a martini is one of the easiest drinks to make-- therefore, the easiest to screw up.

        2. re: zin1953

          "James Bond was the one who popularized vodka martinis ..." I think zin1953 means specifically the James Bond of the movies. The taste of the original (book) character was much wider if I recall. An experimental martini called the Vesper in the first story (from three-quarters gin, one-quarter vodka), Americanos, straight vodka; maybe the most frequent drink was Taittinger Champagne. (His boss, the old admiral, liked a cheap Algerian wine from his Navy days nicknamed The Infuriator for its effects; the city club where he ate lunch kept it around only for him.)

          I agree that what's called a martini sometimes today is amazing.

          1. re: eatzalot

            You forgot the Lillet.

            1 1/2 oz Gordon's gin (the brand was specified by the drink's creator, Ian Fleming)
            1/2 oz vodka
            1/4 oz Lillet Blanc

            Shake very well with ice, strain into a chilled martini glass, garnish with a lemon twist.

            Lillet, like fellow aperitif Dubonnet, comes in both red and white varieties. You want the white Lillet. Incidentally, it isn't possible to make a Vesper exactly the way Bond specified anymore, as he asked for Kina Lillet, which was more bitter than the Lillet produced today. If you want to make it so that it's closer to how it would have tasted originally, use Tanqueray gin (Gordon's gin isn't as strong as it used to be) 100 proof Stolichnaya vodka (likewise), and add a small pinch of quinine (or a dash of Angostura bitters if you can't find the quinine). If you don't want to go out and get Lillet, you can switch in dry vermouth.

            It was named after Casino Royale Bond girl Vesper Lynd. Vesper guessed he named it such for the bitter aftertaste; Bond replied that because one you have it you won't want anything else. It's the only time he orders one in the Bond canon. Otherwise, he splits time between vodka and gin martinis, giving a slight preference for vodka. The reason the vodka martini seems to have so much more prevalence is because of movie product placement by Smirnoff.

        3. Another reason to stir rather than shake is the inclusion of non-potable bitters like Angostura, Peychaud's, or Fee's Orange Bitters in the cocktail, as in a proper Manhattan. These tend to make the drink cloudy if shaken, in a way that doesn't disappear as readily as tiny ice chips or air bubbles do.

          I'm not a Vodka Martini fan. I prefer a Martini up in a ratio that has fallen out of favor: about 3:1, ideally with a dash of orange bitters. With that ratio, the vermouth brand becomes as important as the choice of gin: I prefer Vya, Boissiere, Noilly Prat, or Lillet Blanc (the last not technically a vermouth). For gin, Plymouth, Hendrick's, or Bombay (Original, not Sapphire). Still waiting for Bluecoat gin to be distributed in Greater Boston: I've heard good things.

          1 Reply
          1. re: MC Slim JB

            I prefer my vodka neat -- right out of the freezer. But Plymouth or Bombay with Fratelli Branca Carpano Antica Formula . . . yum!

          2. Hendrick's. Very Dry (toss the vermouth out of my glass after swishing). Olives or twist, depending on my mood.

            1 Reply
            1. More on the subject from Alexander Graham Harding, a bartender at Eastern Standard Kitchen, which has one of Boston's most serious bartending crews, as quoted in The Full Comp, , a fascinating Boston industry-insider blog:

              "As any honest bartender will tell you, and there are many honest bartenders, it’s pretty easy to make a good drink. That’s why it is so upsetting that so many bars don't do it right. A prime example of doing it wrong that I often see is the bartender who shakes every drink. It always bums me out. Shaking does look cooler. It’s showier and certainly louder than stirring, but some drinks need to be stirred.

              So what gets shaken and what gets stirred? There are a just few rules that should be followed. The most important is that drinks made with juice, dairy, and syrups are shaken; straight spirits are stirred. There are good reasons for this rule. Shaking dilutes the ice faster than stirring, adding more water to a drink. That sounds bad, as in the practice of secretly watering down the liquor, but it really isn't. Every drink needs water; it's just a matter of how much. Drinks with fresh juices need more water than straight spirit cocktails and so should be shaken.

              Water helps balance the citrus flavors in a drink. Adding too little water makes the drink too sour and usually too thick. Adding the right amount mellows the tartness. Hard shaking a cocktail with eggs or milk makes the drink 'froth' and gives it the proper, thicker texture. Drinks made with just booze should be cold but not watery. Sure, shaking a drink gets it cold fast but it changes its body too. Martinis, for example, are sexy drinks that should look pristine and feel silky smooth on your tongue. Shaking a Martini adds thousands of tiny air bubbles, and sometime ice crystals that make the drink look cloudy and roughen its texture.

              Most people argue that shaking makes a drink colder than stirring. Not really. Yeah shaking will get a drink colder faster, but stirring (well) can get a drink just as cold and adds less water to it. If you’re bored, grab a thermometer and try it. You will find that you can get the stirred drink to the same temperature as the shaken in just a minute or so. Some believers in stirring still doubt that it can get a drink cold enough in a reasonable time, so they store the liquor in a freezer. Yes, this method ensures that you can get the drink cold by stirring it even faster and so you will also add less water to it, but dealing with 'frozen' liquor is damned inconvenient, and virtually impossible in a drinking establishment.

              In all the arguing about getting a drink cold, bartenders and drinkers can forget that coldest may not be best. How cold do you want a drink? Some say the correct temperature is 28 degrees, and there’s even a restaurant in the South End bearing that name. I think that might be a little too cold. Holding, mouthing, and swallowing can get a little painful at 28 degrees and colder. Also, a thermometer and should not be a common bar tool, that is too nerdy and just wastes time. I follow a simple rule. I shake a drink for about 15 seconds. At that point, the ice breaks up a little as indicated by the change in the sound the shaker makes. It goes from a loud sharp ting to a somewhat softer rattle. I stir for about twice as long as I shake and stop when the outside of the shaker (maybe it should be called a stirrer in this situation) begins to frost. That’s when to start drinking."

              1 Reply
              1. re: MC Slim JB

                That's fine if the bartender knows how to stir. Or cares. But I've had countless cocktails that were stirred limply, sometimes just one turn. Ew. I prefer shaken to warm. Even if it's cloudy, it calms down in no time.